Medical doctors immediately jump to mind when most hear the phrase “medical malpractice.” After all, culturally we are engrained to think of these types of cases involving surgeons, OBGYNs, ER doctors, nurses, and others working in hosptials and medical clinics. It is true that most medical malpractice cases do stem from mistakes made in these settings. However, the actual legal arena of medical malpractice also extends to other healthcare-related professionals, including dentists or even psychiatrists. The same basic principles are at play in all of these professionals negligence cases. Was there the appropriate legal relationship between the parties? Did the professional abide by appropriate standards of care? If there was a break from those standards, did it cause harm to the patient?
However, even though the basic legal outline in the same in all cases, that is not to say that unique factors often come into play. This is illustrated in a somewhat unique case reported recently in the SF Gate. According to the story, a medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against a family doctor who allegedly acted inappropriately in having an affair with a patient. That patient ended up divorced and suffering from various forms of distress. The patient eventually filed a suit seeking accountability from the doctor for the harm.
Obviously, this case seems bizarre on its face. The civil justice system does not allow plaintiffs to recover for all harm they experience in their lives that can in any way be “caused” by someone else. Individual choices do matter, and in almost all cases, having a marital affair,(even if it causes long-term mental and emotional harm) does not open the door to a civil lawsuit against the paramour.